Whether you’re on a powerboat, sailboat or canoe, spending time on the water can be a fun and relaxing way to enjoy the summer weather with family and friends. But with more than 750 deaths and close to 3,000 injuries each year from recreational boating accidents, it’s important to remember that it also can be a dangerous activity.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, boating fatalities jumped 12.8 percent in 2011 and are now at the highest level since 1998. Seventy percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 84 percent were reported as not wearing a life jacket. Before you plan your fun on the water, here are some simple steps to help you enjoy the last weeks of summer on the boat.

Grab the Floatation Devices:
Make sure everyone always wears a life jacket. Life jackets should fit snugly and keep the child’s head above water. Each person operating, riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear an approved non-inflatable Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device. Inflatable personal flotation devices are prohibited for personal watercraft use. Make sure the life jacket is appropriate for the child’s size and weight and is properly fastened. Quick Tip – Put the life jacket on the child and have the child make a “touchdown” signal with arms raised. If the neck opening of the life jacket comes over the child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.

Keep an Eye Out:
Always supervise children when they are in the water. Whether you stop at a sandbar or in open water, make sure the boat’s engines are completely shut off before allowing swimmers around the boat. Try designating a “water watcher”, a responsible adult who is in charge of watching children while they are in the water. This adult should not be distracted by phone calls, text messages, reading or talking to others.

Operating a Watercraft:
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website, no one under the age of 14 may operate a personal watercraft. It also states than anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 must complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators approved course before operating a vessel with a motor of 10 horse power or more in Florida. More information about a in-person or online classes can be found on theFlorida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website .

Living in Tampa Bay gives families the opportunity to enjoy the lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. Before you head out remember that safety is paramount and a few extra safety steps can go a long way.